Human Conditions (Virgin)
Richard Ashcroft has Elvis' hips, Mick Jagger's lips and Jim Morrison's hair. He'd be the perfectly evolved skinny white boy of rock if he could lose Ringo Starr's nose. His music also blends the good and bad of pop. He knows that taking the tricks of dance music into rock involves more than stealing beats, loops and scratchy noise. He filches the idea of a broad blanket of sound but uses standard rock instruments.
Three or more guitarists, including Ashcroft, a drummer, drum programmer and a percussionist (usually Ashcroft) work with string musicians on loose songs held together by layers of crooning from the former frontman of the Verve. He sings backing vocals, filling gaps in the country and soul-tinged tunes with yeahs, nos, babies and supposedly ad-libbed licks of spoken prose.
It all works nicely until you ask what he's on about. 'I know it all so well,' he drawls. He's surprised to be alone with supreme knowledge: 'Can you hear what I'm sayin'?' He will help the ignorant, though, as long as he is not asked to spell out the plan: 'You want me to paint it?/ I haven't got the time.' We're expected to simply walk with the man and appreciate his burden: 'Can't you see? There must be more for me/ I'd have a breakdown if I had the time'. Beach Boy Brian Wilson, a man with much more talent who had time aplenty for his breakdown, arranges and sings on Nature Is The Law.
The only other departure from the Ashcroft manifesto is Paradise, a tribute to his son that doubles as a love song. The subject is congratulated for sparking Ashcroft's love and bringing back lost memories - of himself.